AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A Texas sheriff under fire from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott over so-called "sanctuary cities" policies says streets are safer when people can report crimes "without fear of deportation."
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez on Thursday fired back for the first time since the governor vowed this week to cut off some state funding and change laws to remove her from office.
The conflict started after Hernandez, an elected Democrat, said she would no longer comply with all federal immigration detainers in Austin jails. Hernandez has said she will still honor detainer requests for murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking charges. But she has said complying with all requests ties up her deputies and sows distrust between officers and county residents, who may fear deportation.
She pointedly made the announcement hours after President Donald Trump was sworn into office. Trump this week moved to cut off money to local governments that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Hernandez says she won't let "fear and misinformation" dictate her job.
Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to oust the elected Democrat from office even though he doesn't have the power to do so.
His pledge came hours before President Donald Trump signed an executive action to also crackdown on immigrant-protecting sanctuary policies by cutting federal dollars.
Abbott, a Republican, already has plans to cut off some state grants by Feb. 1 because Sheriff Hernandez will no longer honor all detainer requests from federal immigration authorities.
"If she doesn't, we will remove her from office," Abbott said during an interview on "Fox and Friends."
Abbott said the Texas Legislature is working on anti-sanctuary bills that would remove officeholders and impose criminal and financial penalties. His threat goes beyond one prominent anti-sanctuary bill that proposes blocking taxpayer money as punishment.
Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said "unless the governor wants to be king and remove people from office unilaterally," it's up to voters to decide.
Trump plans to curb funding for cities that don't arrest or detain immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, which could cost individual jurisdictions millions of dollars. But the administration may face legal challenges, given that some federal courts have found that local jurisdictions cannot hold immigrants beyond their jail term or deny them bond based only a request from immigration authorities.